Gypsy, Seattle, Washington

Thanks to growing numbers of food minded people around the country, underground dining has been gaining momentum. What was once spoken of with hushed tones in foodie circles, underground restaurants have of late been receiving local and national press. In cities with large restaurant scenes, a desire for an alternative to the restrictions of a restaurant have taken both chefs and diners off the radar.

In California a group called Outstanding in the field (out standing?) takes diners to amazing outdoor locations and boasts such names as Alice Waters. In San Fransisco a group called Ghetto Gourmet which began in a basement apartment, dinners prepared by a pair of brothers for a loyal following has swollen to include a national reputation, nightly performers, and guest chefs. Portland’s original underground restaurant, Ripe, dissolved recently and the creator has moved our way starting an underground movement called One Pot. Yup, you guessed it, the meal strips away all airs of dining humbly restricting the meal to be cooked in a single pot.

In Seattle the scattering of underground restaurants has long been dominated by Gypsy. Started in the living room of an in home culinary school, the restaurant gained momentum throughout the Seattle dining scene when food writer Nancy Leason featured it in her column for the Seattle Times, and the well read alternative newspaper The Stranger fawned over the alternative style dining experience. The mailing list grew, the guest chef roster added local chefs, myself in February 2006. Garnering a position in a lengthy Wall Street Journal piece, Gypsy began to attract national attention. In fall of 2006, Gypsy gave birth to a second restaurant, Vagabond. Housed in Portalis Wine Bar in Ballard, this Monday night supper club offers a humble 3 course meal priced moderately, and the opportunity to pull a bottle from the wine shops collection at retail price.

Thanks to the efforts of local P.R. agent Traca Savadago, Gypsy shared a July dinner with Anthony Bourdain. Tony, as I learned he likes to be called, sauntered in, camera’s in tow, and enjoyed an 11 course menu prepared by Gabriel Claycamp, desserts by myself. The dual menus running side by side offered dishes like tequila and strawberry “otter pops”, rosemary skewered chicken hearts, bone marrow “fries”, and an addictive white port marinated foie gras that was bruleed with vanilla sugar. The cheese course, an orange colored whipped epoisse called “cheese whiz” was served with a story of smuggling the cheese into the country in a place no french authority would dare go, a baby’s diaper bag, and was smartly paired with Boones Strawberry Hill.

For dessert a bittersweet chocolate terrine was served with a “cluttering” of garnishes. Made from scharffenberger’s 70 percent bar, the dish highlighted chocolates’ versatility by complimenting it with a myriad of flavors. Candied nuts, salty toasted sesame seeds, Madagascar vanilla cream, pastis preserved cherries, toasted marshmallows, Breton shortbread, fresh raspberries, candied ginger, all sat in a still life of garnishes before the proud wall of a chocolate terrine.

The second dessert was a lime cheesecake mousse set over the top of an “aural” crust. Strawberry pop rocks were implanted into the graham cracker crust for a surprising aural firework display with every bite. The dish was accompanied by strawberry sorbet over a salad of black pepper and strawberries, a strawberry sauce, and a fresh grating of lime zest.

Tony managed to polish off his chocolate terrine and a second helping of the lime cheesecake, and said between mouthfuls that I was “prodigiously talented”. A compliment that would have made me blush even more had I understood what “prodigiously” meant at the time. As it was, being surrounded by cameras was nerve racking enough to keep me singularly focused on the food at hand.

The dinner filmed for The Pacific Northwest episode of No Reservations reruns this Monday at 10pm on the Travel Channel. You can see a bit of me on the show, given the title “Evil Pastry Chef” in a montage casting the characters of this irreverent dinner, and describing the use of pop rocks to remind us that we use our sense of sound while eating more than we know.

During dinner, Bourdain asked his stock question, “What would you eat as your last meal if on death row?” The guests at the table added their own desired meals, mom’s spaghetti, potatoes in any form, foie, chocolate, and roasted marrow in the bone for Bourdain. When I offered my desire for a big fat hot dog on a toasty bun, ketchup, mustard, relish, and chopped onion a top, a bag of plain lays potato chips, and a coca cola so cold there were tiny shards of icy crystals, I was declared to be a cook, through and through. In his first book he highlights the fact that most cooks who put their life into the industry, making your dream meals, in the end are most satisfyed by the simplest of fare.

So set your TiVo, write a sticky note, or just remember, 10 pm, Monday the 26th, on the Travel Channel. Tony does the Pacific Northwest.

18 Responses to “Gypsy, Seattle, Washington”

  1. Trevin says:

    Great blog post, loved this story. My good friend Matt, was helping out at this event as he apprenticed under Gabe. Congrats on getting national airtime on TV :)

  2. Jeanie says:

    Tony is so HOT!!!! I wish I could show him my secret use for Pop Rocks – Great show!

  3. ruben says:

    awesome story, saw the show and was impressed, i have been looking for a way to get on te mailing list for gypsy but apparently it is mpossible. i will be traveling to seattle in the summer, i’m from arizona, and i hope i can die there

  4. ruben says:

    haha sorry meant dine there

  5. Kaz says:

    Anyone know how to get the recipe for the “pop rock” cheesecake- do I pop them in just before baking tiny crusts?

  6. Troofus says:

    I thought the Gypsy segment was lame. You guys really think you can skool Tony on fine dining? Please. Like he says in his last book, bring on the street food and leave the sophisticated stuff to the players in NYC, Paris and so on.

  7. peabody says:

    I saw this episode and I rememeber the pop rocks…thought it was very cool. What a great experience.
    It is so true about how you make all these wonderful things for other people but for yourself you are happy with a hot dog. When I was single and rarely cooked at home for myself people would always ask…what did you have for dinner…and I didn’t want to disappoint them and tell them corn bread stuffing and 2 Strawberry Frosted Poptarts :)

  8. dana says:

    Ruben- you can go to http://www.gypsydinners.com/ to get on the list. There is one question that I don’t necessarily feel is well worded. Ok, it’s a bit lame, and it’s “what makes you cool enough.” Very poorly put and not representitive of what the group is. But anyways, just tell them Dana sent you.

    Kaz- You’ll make an unbaked crust, adding melted butter to graham cracker crumbs. Then wait about 20 minutes for the butter to absorb. When the crumbs are soaked, then add your pop rocks and press them into a mold. If you add the rocks any sooner they’ll pop away before they make it to the table. But if you add them after the butter is absorbed, they stay intact!

    Peabody… I lived off hot pockets when I was going to culinary school and working full time!

    Troofus- Why would we want to “skool” Tony. We made him dinner and he loved it. Simple as that. If the pairing of Boones Strawberry Hill with a dish called “cheeze whiz” didn’t tip you to the fact that it’s not NYC big player kind of fine dining, then the smuggled eppoisse, absenth, otter pops, and pop rocks should convince you. There is a big world between street food and michelin stared tables.

  9. Angie says:

    Oh so you’re the one who made the lime mousse cheesecake! That was such an interesting idea! Actually all the ideas on the show were pretty interesting.

    I look forward to one day going to Seattle (or where ever you are the time) and eating your creations. :)

  10. Matt says:

    I am a sous chef in town and am surprised I’d never heard of the group. I’m still young, but thought that I knew a thing or two about what was going on in Seattle. I am interested in finding out more about what you guys do. I will check out the website. If you are interested in communicating with me directly shoot me an e-mail. Thanks for your time.

    -Matt

  11. mike ward says:

    tony and all you wonderful chefs,this evenings
    programme was one of the most exciting episodes i have
    seen to date.I would love to be that inventive if my friends would let me.I would love some of your recipes to do in my own home.Have you guys written a book yet.
    Better still i think i must come to seattle again and taste all your goodies.You guys inspire an old man who
    has within him a frustrated chef.Well done to all of you and kudos to tony for highlighting your marvellous talents
    salutations mike ward

  12. Robert Grey says:

    Why exactly is Gypsy afraid of the Health Department…kinda makes me not wanna even try to go haha. Jw, if anyone has answers please send me an e-mail
    rkwgrey @ gmail.com

  13. Meris says:

    A.B. Didn’t even mention Northwest beer in his show!!!!

  14. Olivia N. says:

    Hi!
    First of all, the story was amazing and I am greatly impressed with the underground food group. I do wish I live in Seattle right now :).
    Secondly, I have a friend who is currently living in Tacoma, Washington away from his friends and family who are all in California. I really want to send him a surprise by signing up for the dinner tasting. I hope to sign him up for one of the next coming dinner events. He loves food and loves to taste new dishes so if someone would kindly show me the way how to get on the list, I am VERY thankful. I am not sure how the rules work but I thought I give it a try. THANK YOU!!!

  15. Jessica says:

    hey, im a food fanatic and a passionate chef. i’d love to experience dining at Gypsy only problem i don’t know how to get in. if any one could give me an answer please email me jsettle13@hotmail.com

  16. JKOOL says:

    Hi!,

    I loved the feel of the Gypsy episode of AB. Me and my fiancée are serious food fanatics, and visited some of the top restaurants around the world. But this looks so much more fun than the established order. We are travelling through Seattle mid June on a round the world trip and we would love to try this out, if anyone knows how to get in on the mailing list, please mail me at k00lj@hotmail.com we would really appreciate it.

    Cheers

    Jeroen.

  17. James says:

    Does anyone know who the cute, red-headed Asian woman was at the “Gypsy” dinner in Seattle featured on the show “No Reservations”? If so, please email me in confidence @ kilarney@earthlink.net. Much obliged!

  18. Michele Fox says:

    Watching Anthony Bourdain right now in pacific northwest episode I would love to ce to a meal by gypsy please email me details

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